The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California announced that a Chinese company’s Arcadia subsidiary, established to redevelop a downtown Los Angeles hotel, has agreed to pay $1,050,000 to resolve an investigation into the company’s conduct with public officials in the City of Los Angeles, including bribery, honest services fraud, and foreign and conduit campaign contributions.
A three-year non-prosecution agreement (NPA) with Jia Yuan USA Co., Inc. is the latest development in the ongoing investigation into a wide-ranging “pay-to-play” scheme in which developers bribed Los Angeles city officials to secure official acts to benefit their real estate projects.
The China-based Shenzhen Hazens established Jia Yuan to acquire, operate and redevelop the Los Angeles Luxe City Center Hotel, which it purchased in 2014 for more than $100 million. Jia Yuan “planned a massive redevelopment that would include retail space, residential units, and hotel rooms, valued at approximately $700 million,” according to a “statement of facts” accompanying the NPA.
The NPA was executed on Oct. 5 and announced Oct. 7 by U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna and FBI Assistant Director in Charge Kristi Koons Johnson.
Under the NPA, Jia Yuan will pay the monetary penalty within two weeks and will continue to cooperate with the FBI’s ongoing public corruption probe. The NPA also requires the cooperation of Jia Yuan’s parent company, as well as other Hazens subsidiaries in the Los Angeles area.
The NPA details several reasons why the government agreed not to prosecute the company for three years, as long as it refrains from any criminal conduct. Those reasons include the company’s timely acceptance of responsibility for its conduct; remedial measures, including terminating George Chiang as a consultant and improving its compliance program; robust and timely cooperation with the investigation, which included proactively providing the government with records located in China and in the personal possession of its chairman, as well as making the chairman available for an interview while he was located outside the reach of U.S. law enforcement; and agreeing to continue to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI as the agencies continue to investigate and prosecute cases that may touch upon the company’s conduct.
The statement of facts outlines Jia Yuan’s conduct in relation to former Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar, who faces a trial in June on a 34-count racketeering indictment, and real estate development consultant Chiang, who is scheduled to be sentenced in February after pleading guilty earlier this year to participating in a Huizar-led racketeering enterprise.
In the statement of facts, Jia Yuan admits a series of acts, including:
• A Jia Yuan employee provided Katy Perry concert tickets to Huizar soon after Huizar and “Individual 1” – previously identified as the city’s deputy mayor for economic development – intervened in a compliance issue at a Hazens-owned hotel;
• Jia Yuan employees made campaign contributions to several U.S. political candidates, some of which were later reimbursed by the company at the direction of a foreign national, who was prohibited from participating in U.S. elections;
• Jia Yuan provided in-kind contributions to several U.S. political candidates by hosting reduced-cost fundraising events at the Luxe Hotel, some of which took place at the direction of a foreign national who was prohibited from participating in U.S. elections;
• The chairman of the Hazens companies facilitated an introduction that resulted in a contract that paid indirect bribe payments to Huizar, who, in his official capacity, introduced and voted on a motion to benefit the Luxe Hotel project; and
• Chiang organized a Huizar family trip to China that Hazens partially subsidized.
After receiving all of these benefits, Huizar voted to approve the Luxe Hotel project before the city’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which he chaired until shortly after federal agents executed search warrants at his Boyle Heights home and city offices in November 2018.
The statement of facts also details how Chiang and Individual 1 asked the Hazens chairman on several occasions to make a $100,000 contribution to a political action committee established to benefit a Huizar relative who was planning to run for his City Council seat. While the chairman did not authorize the donation, Chiang told Huizar that Hazens would make the $100,000 donation, which prompted Huizar to take additional officials acts to approve the Luxe Hotel project.
The NPA does not preclude or limit the investigation or prosecution of individuals, including any current or former Jia Yuan officer, employee or agent.
The matter involving Jia Yuan and the criminal cases stemming from the investigation are being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mack E. Jenkins, chief of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Veronica Dragalin and Melissa J. Mills, also of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section.
Any member of the public who has information related to this investigation or any other public corruption matter in the City of Los Angeles is encouraged to send information to the FBI’s email tip line at [email protected] or to contact the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office at (310) 477-6565.